Marriage and Economic Incentives: Evidence from a Welfare Experiment
Can economic incentives be used to affect marriage behavior and slow the growth of single-parent families? This paper provides new evidence on the effects of welfare benefit levels on the marital decisions of poor women. Exogenous variation in welfare benefit incentives arises from a randomized experiment carried out in California that allows me to measure responses beyond simple year-to-year changes in benefit levels. I find that a regime of lower benefits and stronger work incentives encourages married aid recipients to stay married, but has little effect on the probability that single-parent aid recipients marry. The effects on married recipients become larger over time, suggesting that long-run effects may exist.
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